Revisiting diabetic polyneuropathy because my legs are rotting off

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I can feel my legs rotting away from the diabetes. There are times, when I’m sleeping, that I convince myself I can smell the gangrene.

From my knees to my toes they’re both covered in brown splotches, like fat freckles. They’re really blood stains from when my legs swell up, and the small blood vessels burst open. For the past month small red splotches have been popping up like an irregular rash, but then they fade to brown and join the rest of them.

It feels like something is crawling from my ankle to my knee and back again. A lot of somethings. Almost constantly. That’s the blood and the swelling.

It’s pretty much the only feeling I have left in my lower legs. When I rub them together, or when I’m laying down with one leg on top of the other, it’s like I’m wearing silk stockings. I can’t feel my leg with my other leg, and I can’t feel my hand stroking my legs.

I had a test done last summer, where they ran electric currents down my legs to find out how my nerves would react. When the results came back in September they told me I had lost close to 40% of the feeling in my feet. It’s called Diabetic polyneuropathy (or neuropathy, I can’t remember), or “diabetic foot”, and I was told to expect it to get worse if I didn’t take steps to get the diabetes under control.

Well, I never took the steps and now it’s up my leg, and almost to my knee. I can tell because, like I wrote, I can barely feel my legs anymore.

So, how come I’m not taking blood sugar readings four times a day? Why am I not using a proper diet? Why am I not taking the medications at the proper times?

My girlfriend and my family doctor asked me pretty much the same questions, just a few days apart. And I answered…

Because I just don’t fucking want to anymore, and I haven’t wanted to for over a year.

My legs fucking hurt almost all the time, it’s like I have shin splints, except I haven’t been running.

All I had to eat yesterday (Tuesday) was three bowls of Frosted Flakes. Think there’s a connection? I know there is. I fucking know there is, but what am I supposed to do? I’ve got $8 to my name, how the fuck am I supposed to eat a proper diabetes-fighting diet, when I’ve got $200 for a month of groceries… and there’s only $8 left?

If I cared enough, if I had the energy, and the patience and the desire, I could probably do it again. I could probably get my numbers back down to the proper levels. I did it eighteen months ago, for about two months.

Whole wheat bagels, fruit, oatmeal, fish, salads, decent cheese…

But then there was a short depressive downturn, and the numbers spiked again. Then there was a high-risk pregnancy. So when my girlfriend and my doctor asked me why I stopped taking readings, why I changed my diet, I told them the numbers were just too difficult to look at, and impossible to control. So I stopped looking.

And I dealt with as much life-stuff / bullshit that I could at one time. You can’t… I can’t put out a raging fire while at the same time deal with the shark attached to your leg. So I dealt with the fire first — stay in treatment, get my girlfriend through the pregnancy, try and deal with my family and my money situation — and now I can’t feel my legs.

That shit isn’t coming back either. I could have perfect numbers for the rest of my life, but it’ll always feel like I’m wearing silk stockings.

I know I have to get this under control, I just don’t know how at the moment. Next month most of my disability cheque, after rent, is going to pay off my phone and cable bills, and my hydro and gas bills. If I’m lucky, really lucky, I’ll have $150 for the month of August.

The local “No Frills” discount Loblaw’s has a sale on this week, it’s only $6 for a 500g block of diabetes-friendly cheese. It’s $4 for a loaf of diabetes-friendly whole wheat bread.

But cost is the issue like the issue is the smell from a rotting corpse… it’s not really the smell that’s important.

I stopped dealing with the diabetes because I couldn’t deal with shit that was threatening to kill me, or the people around me, anymore. Or, more exactly, I was dealing with enough shit that was threatening to kill me — the manic depression, the PTSD, dealing with my family — and those around me — the implications of a high-risk pregnancy on my girlfriend and our son.

I’ve spent the past four or five years dealing with the manic depression, the clinical depressions, quitting smoking, starting a family, trying to get the diabetes sorted out… it’s like asking someone to volunteer for a beating every other day. Eventually they just get a little sick and tired of being punched in the face, and they’d like to take a week or two off.

Besides, there are days where I get paralysed for an hour while trying to decide if I should go to the post office before or after the convenience store.

And others when just going outside is something I’d really rather not do, thanks. Put a couple of those days in a row and all of a sudden you’re eating the MSG noodles you never got around to throwing out, and feeling grateful for them.

I have to figure out how to fix this.

…these are the numbers from my blood meter. The first one is from two weeks ago, the rest are mostly from the last couple of months of 2008 and the first month or two of 2009. The first six months are missing. The high end of ‘normal’ is seven, anything over a thirty means I was supposed to be in a coma. The meter only goes to 33.

18.2 16.3 9.3 6.4 12.6 10.3 13.6 16.1 11.8 13.4 8.5 7.3 7.2 23.8 17.8 21.7 21.2 20.6 19.8 17.2 15.4 22.0 18.6 19.4 18.4 16.8 15.4 16.5 17.1 16.1 18.3 11.6 16.1 15.8 16.6 11.6 13.1 13.0 27.0 21.3 29.6 19.5 21.8 27.6 19.8 24.3 17.8 25.4 29.4 25.6 19.9 23.4 33+ 23.0 30.1 22.8 30.8 33+ 33+ 25.1 24.8 16.4 24.1 21.8 24.7 17.6 31.7 29.5 22.1 19.0 20.9 21.6 16.8 17.1 30.5 24.8 19.8




About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression when I was nineteen, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. It's now 2022, and I have an 8-year old son, and a 12-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at
This entry was posted in Bipolar, Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression, crazy people with no pants, Diabetes, Health, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Mental Health, Poverty and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Revisiting diabetic polyneuropathy because my legs are rotting off

  1. Meg says:

    What about the free health care in Canada? Can you get some blood sugar control medication? My dad takes Glucophage (?) and it helps even though he’s not good about sticking to the diet. The blood sugar levels can really effect your mood and lucidity as well.

  2. Bromac says:

    You have to figure it out, somehow. For your son.

  3. AdviceAnon says:

    I fully expect you to disregard this advice, but if you eat a low carbohydrate diet your diabeties will very likely improve dramatically.

    With $8 to your name you can buy a pack of eggs for a few cents, which is MUCH healthier, much more nutritious, much more filling (so you eat less) and better for your diabetes than frosted flakes. You can also buy a large jar of peanuts, which is also extremely nutritious (did you hear they are saving third world starving people with a peanut-based nutrient supplement?) and much better for your diabetes. You would honestly be better off eating nothing, as eating frosted flakes is basically like eating poison when you have diabetes and it is poorly controlled.

    Buy this book: “Dr bernsteins diabetes solution”. Dr Bernstein isn’t just a doctor, he is a type I diabetic who got total control over his diabetes BEFORE he was a doctor – he went to medical school with the specific intent of helping diabetics like himself.

    Oh and whole wheat bagels and oatmeal aren’t very good for diabetes either, but it is better than frosted flakes.

  4. Addie says:

    While it is something you will have to get under control, I just want to acknowledge how very difficult it must be to do given the other things that have been going on in your life. People with diabetes with few other health issues have trouble doing what they know they should and need to do – I think your writing this post is probably a really good first step. My very best wishes are with you as you tackle this challenge.

  5. anon says:

    Maybe you could try a bag of brown rice, and buying dried beans/chickpeas/lentils? You’ve gotta soak ’em overnight, the beans etc., but these are healthy foods, and you get complex carbs and protein. Though, all this food prep isn’t easy for someone beset by other mental preoccupations. And this will cost more than 8$, but not too too much. Just thought I’d add my two cents in. Take good care of yourself.

  6. Gabriel... says:

    Well, so far today I had a carrot-bran muffin, a litre of 1% milk and two glasses of Diet Coke. But I am planning on having an omelet and some bacon in a few minutes. The $8 was the amount I was looking at just before writing this, after waking up this afternoon (I was up until 7am this morning) I realized I have another $15 in the bank, plus some coins — mostly pennies and nickels — left from the last time I was broke… which would be last month.

    Hi Anon2… the dried foods route is something I’ve thought about, we used to have an independent bulk food store in my village, I’d go shopping there with my mother when I was a younger dude, but it shut down a long time ago.

    Next time I can get to a decent grocery store I’ll start costing things out. Thanks.

    Just so everyone knows, I was pretty angry, mostly at myself, when I wrote this… and not entirely angry about what I was writing about.

    Hi Meg… the pills are free for me because I’m on the Ontario (provincial) disability program — people on Ontario Works (social assistance / welfare) have the same deal. I pay a $2 dispensing fee to the pharmacy per prescription, but otherwise I don’t pay for my Metformin or Glyburide — both of which I take every day, just not necessarily at the right times. If someone has a health plan through work, or their pension, they usually get reimbursed after paying.

    Hi Bromac, thanks for commenting… there are issues upon issues that I have to work out and get control over in order to have a healthy relationship with Victor. Having both legs so I can keep up to him when he’s older is definitely in the top five.

    Hello AdAnon… don’t be so quick to dismiss your own advice, or my willingness to take it. The products name you’re looking for is “Plumpy Nut” or “Plumpynut”, it was on 60 Minutes a few years ago. Since then I’ve wondered why they don’t make it available here…

    Frosted Flakes is basically poison for people without diabetes, so I definitely know it’s bad for me. Sometimes the problem is, it just doesn’t matter. Dying, to someone who went through eighteen years of untreated manic depression and all the suicidal goodness that goes with it, the behavioural conditioning doesn’t leave a lot of room for progressive personal development.

    But there are days when I try. And I did buy eggs today. They were $2.36 for a dozen.

    Thanks for stopping long enough to comment.

  7. Rae says:

    I don’t have much advice, but I offer a supporting thought.

  8. Melanie says:

    I’m still here if you need a friend. Take care of yourself.

  9. G. You can make the healthy changes! I know you can. You are important to you and to us (your friends and loved ones.) I care and understand some of your struggle. One day at a time, as they say. XXOO

  10. amy says:

    This seems so… heavy. Like a lead blanket. That’s how I feel sometimes, and I don’t have detrimental health issues (yet), just the mental crap. You are on Disability? Any chance you can get a special food allowance due to diabetes, and possibly a dietitian? I am pretty sure a friend of mine with Manic/Bi-polar who is a vegan got an allowance for his diet (we live in Ontario as well). If you can, you should look into it. I wish you all the best.

  11. nothingisalone says:

    i just wanted to pop in & say, while i am not diabetic, i know what is like to know you’re killing yourself, but feel if not powerless to stop, but more like you don’t care enough to do it. or that what you need to do is beyond your means for any number of reasons. i have bipolar 2, & i try to be healthy & can do it when i am on an even keel, when i have reason & concern & motivation. but hit that bump in the road, when the most i can do is get out of bed, if that, & taking a shower in a week is a mark of progress, & healthy eating & getting exercise, leaving the house & being social is the last thing that matters. & then when you do get back on our feet, you are starting back at square one to try to motivate yourself to get started again. but you keep trying, right?

    i worked in an HIV clinic & then in a dialysis clinic, so i have worked with a lot of diabetes & peripheral neuropathy. i have seen what it does, so i do hope you are able to get things under control. i will certainly be sending you some positive vibes on your way!

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